I have always found it amusing the claim by English fans and commentators that a World Cup win would see football “coming home”.
If it were truly “coming home” it would be to Scotland and not to England it would be returning, for it was the Scots who truly devised the modern version of the game as we know it. Without our civilising intervention, what England might have given the world was just another version of rugby.
When the so-called Football Association’ was formed at the instigation of a young solicitor from Hull, Ebenezer Morley, what he proposed would be seen now as a basis for rugby with extra violence.
Morley’s draft laws provided that a player could not only run with the ball in his hands but that opponents could stop him by charging, holding, tripping or hacking. A more civilised code did emerge but the English game was still mainly a question of head-down dribbling.
It was the Scots who had the notion of artfully distributing the ball among the players. It started with young men, from Perthshire and the Highlands mainly, who gathered at Queen’s Park in Glasgow in 1867. They obtained a copy of the FA laws and amended them to conform with an almost scientific blend of dribbling and passing.
When they invented passing, these men had invented football. Far from being an English game, it was one that was conceived to confound the English because the Scots, being generally smaller than their opponents in football’s oldest international rivalry, could hardly afford to take them on physically.
As Scots we can truly feel pride some pride this week as England take on Croatia in the World Cup semi-final. To have the English borrowing our history is quite a compliment, the only downside being that we are not in Russia to share in the glory of our invention of the ‘beautiful game’.